Director: Stanley Long
Screenplay: Suzanne Mercer (Taxi Driver); Michael Armstrong (Private Eye); Stephen D. Frances & Aubrey Cash (Plumber’s Mate);
Cast: Barry Evans, Judy Geeson, Adrienne Pasta, Liz Frazer, Robert Lindsay, Ian Lavender, Stephen Lewis, Diana Dors (Taxi Driver); Suzy Kendall, Christopher Neil, Harry H. Corbett, Fred Emney, Liz Frazer, Irene Handel, Ian Lavender, Jon Pertwee, William Rushton (Private Eye); Christopher Neil, Arthur Mullard, Anna Quayle, Stephen Lewis, Christopher Biggins, Elaine page, Nina West, William Rushton (Plumber’s Mate);
Year: 1976 (Taxi Driver); 1977 (Private Eye); 1978 (Plumber’s Mate);
Running Time: 89.5 mins (Taxi Driver); 97 mins (Private Eye); 88.5 mins (Plumber’s Mate)
Certificate: 18

Stanley Long was a British filmmaker probably best known for his sex comedies made during the Seventies, although he also made a range of films in other genres too, including the horror film Screamtime, scripted by Mark of the Devil director Michael Armstrong. Long’s most successful sex comedies have now been brought together by those wonderful people at Powerhouse as part of their Indicator series and they’ve done a great job with each of the three films in this, including finding an array of interesting extras to accompany them.

Adventures of a Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver starts off strongly with a genuinely funny montage of London cabbies interacting with the public in various ways, with a deadpan narrator explaining how wonderful and helpful said cabbies are, when the visuals accompanying the words are clearly showing the opposite. For example, one cabby lets an elderly lady struggle to get into the cab with all her bulky luggage, while the narrator proclaims that cabbies are always there to help people with their bags. Sadly, Adventures of a Taxi Driver doesn’t maintain this level of quality humour, but it is, however, generally amusing throughout.

Essentially a British sex comedy, Taxi Driver is one of the better examples of this particular subgenre from this era. Joe (Barry Evans, of Mind Your Language fame) is a London cab driver who seems more interested in ‘chasing skirt’ than in working, although it’s through his job that he meets most of the ladies that he ends up in ridiculous sexual situations with. Meanwhile Carol (Adrienne Pasta), his girlfriend, is trying to pin him down to share their lives together, but it’s clear that his eyes are still a-wandering, as is his mind, both of which help to get him into all kinds of tricky situations.

Fed up with living at home with his over-bearing mother (Diana Dors), his thieving younger brother and annoying younger sister, he crashes at his mate’s garage apartment. His friend (Robert Lindsay) has a new stripper girlfriend, Nicky (Judy Geeson), who Joe rapidly has designs on; well, until her pet snake causes problems, as does his girlfriend. Through various unlikely events he becomes involves in a jewellery heist, which goes badly, resulting in a CID raid.

Adventures of a Taxi Driver is nicely photographed by Stanley Long regular Peter Sinclair, and the ensemble of British comedy talent all acquit themselves admirably, even though the script lets them down a tad. Like many of the sex comedies from this period Taxi Driver hasn’t aged well and often comes across as being rather sexist. However, taken as it is, a product of its less enlightened time, Taxi Driver is still a fun romp, full of attractive women losing their underwear, without much provocation, and full of actors who should clearly have known better, but clearly needed the pay cheque. Probably my least favourite thing about the film was the soundtrack, which was pretty poor and quite irritating, reminding me, at times, of badly done kid’s TV music, plus Stephen Lewis’s shtick as ‘On the Buses’ – Blakey’-lite was getting tired when this film was made; now it’s positively worn out any welcome that it once might have once had.

However, Adventures of a Taxi Driver is still a fun watch for fans of the earlier Carry On and Doctor… films, and I proudly count myself among them.

Rating:

Adventures of a Private Eye

Singer/songwriter Christopher Neil replaces Barry Evans as the titular ‘hero’ here, playing the very ‘green’ assistant, Bob West, to super experienced (and randy) private eye, Mr Blake (Jon Pertwee). When his boss heads off on a mission to Beruit for a few days, Bob is left to manage the office, but told not to do any investigating. Obviously we wouldn’t have much of a film if he did what he was ordered to do, hence when sexy Laura (Suzy Kendall) walks into the office, asking for help tracking down a blackmailer, Bob is only too happy to help, although clearly his main aim is to get into her knickers!

There then follows Bob’s rather bizarre investigation beginning at slimy photographer Radley’s apartment, looking for evidence of the dodgy photographs that Laura is being blackmailed with. Here he encounters Radley’s housekeeper/cleaner, Mrs Horne (Dors), who he fools into believing he’s from pest control, despite his clearly obvious joke shop moustache.

His adventures continue when he’s invited to Grimsdyke Manor (I wonder if script writer Armstrong borrowed the name as a homage to Peter Cushing in the Amicus film Tales from the Crypt?) by Laura who’s becoming more desperate to hold on to her inheritance from her now deceased husband. In between exploring the house’s hidden passageways Bob ends up getting into an embarrassing situation with the police inspector’s wife, helping Laura to hide a body, which later accidentally gets picked up by a removal lorry’s crew and taking part in a cabaret performance dressed as a woman when he’s trying to stakeout the club where he’s supposed to meet the blackmailer, finally.

As Stanley Long admits to during the film’s commentary track, Private Eye is somewhat more contrived than the others since they had to stretch plausibility somewhat in order to get Bob into the various situations that he finds himself in; although you could say that about all the films in this set. Some of the episodes within the film work quite well, while others don’t ‘sit’ so comfortably – in fact, the movie is probably ten minutes too long and would have benefitted from an edit. Like Taxi Driver before it, Private Eye is still a fun film, but outstays its welcome and isn’t as amusing as the previous film.

As with Taxi Driver this film is well shot, in general, although its use of day-for-night photography during one sequence doesn’t work so well and ‘cheapens’ the production. However, one can forgive Private Eye for many of its shortcomings due to its awesome cast of British comedy actors including the likes of Irene Handel and Ian Lavender. It’s always a delight watching these talented actors at work, even if the script isn’t particularly great. And, given that it’s his first film role, lead Christopher Neil acquits himself well playing a likeable goofball. Sadly, Chris Neil didn’t make many films after this, instead returning to the music industry where he went on to produce for a range of big artists, including Shena Easton (including her best-selling Bond song, For Your Eyes Only).

Adventures of a Private Eye, while not as good as Adventures of a Taxi Driver, is still worth checking out, if only for its classic comedy cast including some fun cameos by the likes of Jon Pertwee and Harry H. Corbett.

Rating:

Adventures of a Plumber’s mate

Here our titular ‘hero’ is Sid South (Christopher Neil, again), a newly qualified plumber, struggling to pay the bills for his bed-sit flat; in fact, he’s facing eviction. His boss, B. A. Crapper (Stephen – ‘Blakey’ – Lewis again) is reluctant to give him any serious jobs, and he’s being hounded for money, (for gambling debts that he’s accrued), by the bookie’s chief heavy, nicely played by ‘the man with a permanent gurn’ on his face, namely Arthur Mullard.

As with our Taxi Driver anti-hero before him, Sid quickly finds himself out of his depth, both at plumbing and with his saucy encounters of the female kind. At least he doesn’t mistake a man for a woman, like poor Joe did! Not that Sid particularly deserves to do well with woman-kind since he’s a bit of a misogynist, a fact clearly underlined in the way that he treats his ‘girlfriend’ in the opening scene after the two have had an energetic night of sex, during which they almost squashed his poor pet moggy, or is that pussy!

The main plot revolves around a mobster’s toilet seat that’s really made of gold, but painted brown, to disguise its true value. After changing the seat for a client, Sid sells the old (gold) seat to an antique shop for very little money, thus attracting the ire of the client’s hubby when he is released from prison early and comes looking for his hidden-in-plain-sight loot. And, in between all the criminal activity, are yet more dodgy dealings as TV favourite, Willie Rushton, gives Sid some black market jobs to help him cover his growing debts to the rather suspect bookie.

One of his ‘jobs’ involves trying to swap out a valuable painting for a fake copy, but this all goes horribly wrong when he ends up at a house party involving fancy dress and plenty of sexual shenanigans, and featuring Christopher Biggins with a blow-up sex doll, who’s turns out to be his ‘other half’! It all ends well though and our hero lives to see another day, even if he’s back working for Crapper again.

Again Plumber’s mate is well made and features a good cast who represent themselves well, but, again, the script is fairly weak, and the film doesn’t hang together, as a whole, as well is it should.

Rating:

Special Features

As per usual with Indicator there are plenty of special features to accompany the films.

Taxi Driver

Audio commentary with Stanley Long – Director Long reveals that the film was eighth in the billboard chart in the UK, the year that it was released, which is even more remarkable given that it was up against Jaws, the first of the summer blockbusters. He also reveals that it was fellow director, Pete Walker’s Rolls Royce that was crashed in the film, and that Diana Dors charged them £500 per day.

BEHP interview with Stanley Long: Part One (conducted by Denis Gifford) – Here Long talks about his early life and how he first got into movies. Apparently his dad was the chauffeur for the chairman of Hovis and Stanley himself earned money as a Punch and Judy man at kid’s parties. At an early age he fell in love with photography and was part of early experiments on the dye transfer process.

Peter Sinclair’s Camera (15 mins) – Peter, Long’s DoP of choice, talks about his career and the directors he’s worked with including Pete Walker and Stanley Long. He shot all three of the Adventures films, which he enjoyed doing. During the 80s he ended up shooting lots of music videos for the likes of Madonna, including her Like a Virgin video.

Theatrical trailer (3 mins) – Quite surprised they show a penis in the trailer!

Image Galleries – 46 promotional stills

The Best of the Adventures (1981) (99.5 mins) – A documentary about the series, replete with lots of film clips, often in Spanish, for some reason. This is more of a clip-show really, but still fun.

Private Eye

Audio commentary with Stanley Long – Stan spends more time on this commentary actually watching the film, rather than commenting about it, so there are quite long gaps between the actual commentary segments. He praises Michael Armstrong’s ability to come up with suitable names for the various characters and explains how he was building up a good little repertory group of actors for the Adventures films, something he seemed proud of. Apparently the perverts in the bar were all film bookers from EMI!

BEHP interview with Stanley Long: Part Two (conducted by Denis Gifford)  – This section covers the middle part of Stan’s career, and focuses more on the technical side of it, the part Long was most passionate about. He talks about being part of the R & D for Circularama, which later went bust, and also about his flying escapades. Probably my favourite part here is where he reminisces about his time working with Boris Karloff on Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers, a film he said where Michael tried to have 40 camera set-ups in one night!

Stanley by Simon (18:53) – Author Simon Sheridan talks about his association with Long over many years and how they because close friends through his writing books featuring the man himself, namely Keeping the British End Up! and later X-rated, my life in sexploitation films. This is great stuff featuring some cool clips from the films themselves and Simon makes for an interesting interview subject. This is probably my favourite special feature in the set.

Super 8 version (16 mins) – Running at just 1/6th of the film’s full runtime this is interesting stuff, and mainly focuses on the river encounter and the burlesque club scenes and doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but kind of works despite of that.

Image Gallery – 33 stills including some very cool poster designs

Can you keep it up with this, that and the other for a week (2004) (15:38) – A short film by director/writer Jan Manthey. This homages Long’s style of filmmaking, although, doesn’t do a good job of it. Plus I don’t think the film maker understands the words ‘colour’ and ‘grade’, for one thing, judging by the opening shots… This is slightly better than the same director’s Plumber from Outer Space film – it’s shorter for one thing!

Audio commentary for Can you keep it up with this, that and the other for a week – Here we learn that the director had to play the ex-con since the actor who was supposed to be playing the role probably saw sense and didn’t turn up. And also that some random woman joined the cast as she had a sexy nurse’s uniform that she wanted to wear on camera – bizarre, but cool!

Image Gallery – 27 stills

Plumber’s mate

Audio commentary with Stanley Long – Here Stanley talks about Michael Armstong, who apparently helped with the casting of the film, and about his own role, i.e. crashing his own car into a street bollard. Apparently they shot the early scene of the girl having her dress ripped off her in the street by the bike for real, which gained them notoriety in the area for years to come.

The BEHP interview with Stanley Long: Part Three (conducted by Denis Gifford) – Here the director discusses actors’ attitudes to getting naked and having sex on camera, and about his earlier films including Groupie Girl, which was very successful, its follow-up, Bread, and the Adventures films. He also talks about getting well respected director, Martin Campbell to direct Eskimo Nell, probably his most infamous film.

The Adventures of a Plumber in Outer Space (2008) (45 mins) – A very low-budget homage to the Adventures films, particularly Plumber’s Mate, which sadly suffers from most of the usual low-budget film problems, i.e. poor sound quality and am-dram level acting. The music is also pretty irritating and the special effects are not so special!

Audio commentary for The Adventures of a Plumber in Outer Space – Not sure we really needed this, but we have it anyway. Apparently Michael Armstrong recommended some of the cast (from pantos) and Stanley has a cameo in the film and was apparently very supportive to the filmmakers.

Stanley Long's Adventures: A Seventies Sex Comedy Threesome
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